News 12 Long Island anchor Judy Martin was remembered by colleagues Saturday as a tenacious, award-winning journalist and "free spirit" who spoke often about balancing her career and personal life.
Stunning station employees, Martin died suddenly in her Halesite home on Friday night. She was 49.
Suffolk County police, who were called to the home at 7:30 p.m., said criminality is not suspected.
As of Saturday night, the cause of death had not been determined. Martin's cousin Philip Gallagher said she died of natural causes.
Martin last appeared on the anchor desk Thursday night. She had been scheduled to anchor the 5 p.m. Friday broadcast but didn't show up, raising concerns, the station said.
A New York Emmy Award winner, Martin began working at Woodbury-based News 12 in 1988. During her 25-year broadcast news career, she covered a long list of major stories, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the 1990 crash of Avianca Flight 52 on Long Island.
"She was an aggressive reporter" who wanted to know and explore the world around her, said Patrick Dolan, news director of News 12.
"She was a free spirit as a person, and I think that quality carried over into her natural sense of curiosity as she would tackle an assignment," he said.
During her career, she also worked for Marketplace Report, National Public Radio, CNBC Business Radio, World Vision Report and BBC Radio 3, according to her website, worklifenation.com, where she wrote about balancing professional and home life. An accredited yoga teacher, she gave workshops on stress management and released a CD on meditation.
The day she died, Martin tweeted a dozen times on a variety of subjects, sharing links to articles on careers, leadership and the Super Bowl.
Alan Goodman, executive producer at News 12, described Martin, whom he knew for about 25 years, as a hard-nosed reporter and "a very well-prepared anchor."
"She was a very empathetic person in general," he said. "She just loved doing stories about people."
Colleagues said Martin, who never married, was involved in women's issues and volunteered at hospices. A 2000 Newsday profile on Martin said she served on the board of directors for River Fund, a Florida-based volunteer organization serving people with HIV and AIDS.
Martin was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Baldwin, where she went to high school. She earned her undergraduate degree in communications and broadcast journalism from the New York Institute of Technology-Old Westbury.
Her aunt, Natalie Gallagher, of North Plainfield, N.J., said Martin was a "beautiful, caring woman" who made everyone laugh.
Martin's sister, Mary Martin Loder, was traveling to Long Island from Florida Saturday after learning of the death, family members said. Other survivors include her parents, John and Marietta Martin, of Long Island.
News 12 is owned by Cablevision, as is Newsday.